George Segal, ‘Woman on Park Bench’, 1998, Phillips

Property from an Important West Coast Collection

From the Catalogue:
Throughout George Segal’s prolific oeuvre, the artist explored the depths of human emotion with the depiction of a variety of subjects. Often associated with the Pop movement, Segal eventually gravitated towards the sturdier medium of bronze, of which the present lot is made. This shift was the result of public, outdoor sculptures done by the artist that can be seen throughout the country and were often coated in a white patina made to mimic Segal’s earlier white plaster casts, making each of the sculptures in the artist’s oeuvre a recognizable masterpiece. The present lot, executed in 1998, was created during the artist’s second and most celebrated retrospective, which traveled from the Musée des Beaux Arts in Montreal to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., a pivotal moment in Segal’s career when he became internationally renowned for his modern sculptural narratives.

In Woman on Park Bench, another example of which is on permanent view at the Lehigh University Art Galleries, Segal constructs a seated female figure, looking down at her feet and clutching a shoulder bag which rests to her right. The white patina stands in stark contrast to the cast iron and aluminum structure on which she sits in solitude. Without much indication, it becomes obvious that the woman is frozen in deep thought. As the artist himself stated, "I discovered that ordinary human beings with no great pretensions of being handsome were somehow singing and beautiful in their rhythms. The people that I prefer to use again and again are friends with a very lively mental life…It's a different idea of beauty and it has to do with the gift of life, the gift of consciousness, the gift of a mental life" (The Artist, quoted in Phyllis Tuchman, George Segal, New York, 1983, p. 109). This complex mentality is evident in Woman on Park Bench, as one is confronted with a distinct sense of reality in her life-size quality, forcing the viewer to engage with and be reminded of ordinary life and its modest beauty.
Courtesy of Phillips

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University Art Galleries, George Segal: Woman on Park Bench, 1998, April 25, 2005 - present (another example exhibited)

The George and Helen Segal Foundation, New Jersey
Carroll Janis, Inc., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005

About George Segal

Whether portraying modern couples sitting in a park (Gay Liberation, 1980), or a biblical family’s unfolding drama (Abraham’s Farewell to Ishmael, 1987), George Segal’s life-size human figures express the fragility of the human condition. Hyperrealism, achieved by making full-body casts of live models using plaster bandages, renders the figures familiar and emotionally resonant. As such, Segal has been seen by some to have rejected the cool calculations of Pop art, despite being considered a prominent exponent of the movement for his casual depictions of contemporary culture and everyday situations. Yet, covered in bright primary colors or whitewash, Segal’s figures emanate an otherworldly strangeness, prompting New York Times critic Roberta Smith to describe them as “emotionally confounding.”

American, 1924-2000, New York, New York, based in New York, New York